By Matt Noonan
Three days after being named the 2021 Massachusetts State Collegiate Athletic Conference (MASCAC) Offensive Rookie of the Year, Dante Aviles-Santos concluded his sophomore season by recording six touchdowns, including two rushing scores as UMass Dartmouth rolled past Alfred State in one of two New England Bowls this afternoon.
The Corsairs, who beat the Pioneers by a score of 42-16, ended their season on a six-game winning streak to finish 9-2 for the first time since 2003.
Aviles-Santos, who recorded 339 yards of total offense, scored two of his six touchdowns in the opening frame, including a three-yard rushing score with 11:56 remaining that provided UMass Dartmouth with a lead that would eventually grow to 22-3 at the break.
Both teams would trade touchdowns throughout the third quarter – Alfred State did pull within three scores (34-16) when Jake Palmer capped a four-play, 58-yard drive with a two-yard rushing touchdown, but that would be the closest they would get. UMass Dartmouth would tack on one more score in the opening minutes of the fourth quarter with an eight-yard touchdown pass from Aviles-Santos to Winston DeLeon.
Alfred State’s Aaron Jenkins, who was named the Eastern Collegiate Football Conference (ECFC) Offensive Player of the Year, ended the game with 287 yards of total offense, including 215 yards passing and one touchdown. Mike Nushar led the Pioneers’ defense with a game-high 21 total tackles, including 12 solo stops to go with one forced fumble.
Despite the loss, the Pioneers concluded the season with six wins, which is the most they have recorded in a single season since their initial campaign in 2013.
Merchant Marine 63, Western New England 35: Coach Mike Toop won his final game on the sidelines as the Mariners jumped out to a 21-0 lead and never looked back as the United States Merchant Marine Academy (USMMA) capped its season with a New England Bowl against the Golden Bears of Western New England.
Ian Blankenship recorded seven touchdowns in the win – he rushed for a game-high 137 yards on 30 carries for four scores while completing 4 of 11 passes for 150 yards and three touchdowns. Talsen Smith caught both touchdown passes while finishing the contest with three catches for 120 yards.
Western New England’s Steven Fedorchak led all receivers with 130 yards on six grabs and caught three touchdowns.
As a team, USMMA recorded 579 yards of total offense on 83 plays compared to 412 yards on 85 plays for Western New England.
The Mariners end their season with a 9-1 record while setting a program record for points in a game with 63.